Notre Dame kicker keeps eye on ‘higher prize’

BOB WIENEKE
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — He managed to wedge a self-assessment of his pool and pop-a-shot skills into an answer about why he can be a leader on the Notre Dame football team, which begged the follow-up question: Just how good is Irish kicker/punter Kyle Brindza in the game room?

"Let's just say my pop-a-shot record will be standing here until they remove that game," the senior-to-be said. "We'll just put it at that."

Brindza might be pretty good at billiards and game-room basketball, but he's also pretty decent at using his right leg to score points and change field position.

How good? Last season Brindza hit 20 of 26 field-goal attempts and all 38 of his extra-point attempts as he led the Irish in scoring. In his first season as the punter, Brindza averaged 41.1 yards in a time share of sorts with pooch punter Alex Wulfeck.

The solid junior season brings belief for an even better final campaign in South Bend. In fact, Brindza's goals are lofty, and succinct.

"National championship. Groza. Ray Guy," the Canton, Mich., product said, following up on the ultimate team goal with the awards given to the nation's top kicker and top punter.

Brindza's passion, however, doesn't end with kicks and punts. In fact, he lights up more than a little bit when asked if he likes lighting up return men.

"Yeah," the 6-foo-1, 236-pound Brindza said, "I do."

He registered four tackles last year, but one stick against Oklahoma stuck out in particular.

"He was coming off, looking at us ... broke outside and he was right there at the sideline, about to jump out because he was afraid of me obviously," Brindza deadpanned, "but I just stuck him to the sideline.’’

Better than a kick?

"You know," Brindza said, "it was kind of fun."

Brindza's passion to be the best is evident by his lofty goals, but he's also not one to be satisfied with just being a specialist. In fact, he believes his work ethic can set an example in the locker room.

"I'm pretty sure you can ask a lot of other people, I'm not the typical kicker, I'm not the wimpy kid who's not going to go work out," he said before relating his success in game rooms. "I'm the first one here, I'm pretty much almost the last one out just because I'm willing to work extra because I have my eyes on a higher prize.

"As I said I'm not the typical kicker who's going to be complacent. I want to be just like a quarterback that's seen as that person that's able to take the next step to the next level."

In fact, a poster in his room reminds him daily about his desire to be a jack-of-all-trades.

"Because that's who I want to be. I don't want to be known as just one," he said. "I want to be known as the kicker/punter who's a hard worker, dedicated and doesn't treat it as a job, but treats it as a love and passion."

Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza during the Notre Dame vs. Michigan game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. (SBT photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)